Thursday, December 31, 2009

I See London, I See France, I See Bombs in Underpants

So this Lonesome Luke rich Nigerian kid, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, hops on a plane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day with a bomb sewn into his underpants. As the plane begins to land, the kid tries to set off the bomb and it does little more than give him third-degree burns on his tallywhacker, and the entire civilized world goes snake guano.

Many observers have compared the rich Nigerian kid with the skivvy bomb with shoe bomber Richard Reid who tried to blow up an airplane over the Atlantic in 2001. The explosive in Reid’s shoes was the same type the Nigerian kid had in his drawers, PETN. Had Reid been able to detonate his shoes, he presumably would have blown his toes off. The rich Nigerian kid had twice as much of the explosive in his boxers as Reid had in his shoes. Federal authorities say if the kid’s panties had gone boom like they were supposed to, they would have blown a hole in the side of the aircraft. That would have caused something called "explosive decompression," which isn’t as horrible as it sounds. Unlike what you may have seen in thriller entertainments, decompressions don’t suck everybody out of the airplane — unless, of course, the hole is big enough to break the airplane in half, in which case being sucked out of it becomes a minor concern.

The media have been frothing over the prospect that the rich Nigerian kid is connected to al-Qaeda. The kid himself told authorities that he has ties to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). That could mean just about anything. It could mean some huckster recognized him as a screwed up rich kid with radical Islamic leanings, sidled up to him, and said, Psst. Young Man. I am with al-Qaeda. We’ve had our eye on you for some time now, and we like what we see. You want the martyrdom, the virgins, the seat beside Allah? Well, I have a lovely little bomb you can sneak onboard an airplane in your Fruit of the Looms, and for you I’ll part with it for a mere $100,000 US, and believe me, I’m losing money on the deal.

Who are these AQAP hooligans, anyway? They’re described as an al-Qaeda "offshoot." Does that mean they’re a subsidiary of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, kind of like KBR is an offshoot of Dick Cheney’s Halliburton? AQAP formed in January 2009 when al-Qaeda in Yemen merged with Saudi Arabia’s al-Qaeda. Whatever you do, don’t mistake AQAP or Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda with al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which more than anything else resembles a Pittsburg garage band that calls itself "The Rolling Stones of Pennsylvania."

AQAP has taken credit for the rich Nigerian kid’s bombing attempt, which tells us the outfit is a gang of losers. Taking credit for the Detroit plane bombing is like Winston Churchill bragging about his role in Gallipoli: yeah, I’m the schmuck who arranged that unmitigated disaster.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who never met an issue he couldn’t be partisan about, criticized Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for appearing "bored" on the Christmas weekend political gab-athons. "There was no intensity, there was no show of emotion," King said. King obviously would have preferred the female Democrat to appear hysterical and disoriented.

As it was, Napolitano did more than sufficient damage to herself by claiming that "the system worked." Yeah. A rich Nigerian kid who’s on a watch list and whose respected banker father has warned authorities may be a terrorist risk manages to board an airplane headed for America with a pant load of bomb and no passport and the freaking system worked? Napolitano later retracted her statement, but the damage had been done. Like President Obama finally said, there was a "systematic failure" of America’s security apparatus.

Speaking of saying stupid things: I have two graduate degrees in bull crap, I know exactly what it sounds like, and I hear it every time lipstick neocon Joe Lieberman opens his mouth. Like Dick Cheney, Lieberman managed to get himself deferred out of the Vietnam conflict, first for attending Yale and Yale Law School and then for managing to get his wife pregnant. Joe’s only real warmongering credentials are his conspicuous displays of smoking John McCain’s stogie, but that appears to be enough for him to get by. Joe never met a war he didn’t like: except, of course, for the one he managed to dodge when he was of draft age.

Joe told FOX News "Iraq was yesterday’s war. Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war." Joe’s always been one for acting preemptively. He was a leading proponent of going off half-cocked into Iraq. He still thinks preemptive deterrence is an enlightened method of foreign policy. Joe might want to stitch his pie hole shut on the subject of military actions and look into what’s wrong with the Homeland Security structure, seeing as how he’s the chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and all.

Joe doesn’t seem to understand, however, that we’re already doing preemptive things in Yemen. The US was involved in a pre-Christmas air strike on Yemen’s Sa’ada Province. CIA agents and Special Operations forces began covert ops in Yemen a year ago. This has all been done, of course, without a declaration of war or an authorization for use of military force (AUMF) from Congress, much as the Bush administration blew villages in Somalia to smithereens without authorization from the legislature. We don’t have presidents any more. We have emperors.

Non-G.I. Joe says Yemen is now one of the "centers" of the fight against terrorism, and Joe’s not the only war dog who thinks Yemen is the next military-industrial mother lode.

"Yemen’s security problems won’t just stay in Yemen," says Christopher Boucek, who studies Yemen as an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "They’re regional problems and they affect Western interests."

Lest you think the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is actually interested in peace, be advised that another of its associates is Robert Kagan of the neocon Kagans who include father Donald Kagan and brother Fred Kagan who played a major role in designing both the Iraq and Afghanistan surges. Robert Kagan is also the long-time publishing and ideological partner of Weekly Standard editor and Project for the New American Century founder Bill Kristol.

Keep in mind, then, that Christopher Boucek’s real job at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is to start a full-blown war in Yemen, and the job of everyone else at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is sustain international warfare for as long as humanly possible.

And now we’re all hot to trot off to war in Yemen because of some spoiled, screwed up Muslim kid who, by the way, comes from Nigeria, not Yemen, just as the 9/11 attackers came from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, not Afghanistan.

Normal.dotm 0 0 1 51 295 Pen and Sword 2 1 362 12.0

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.


  1. Good to see you back up and around.

    They are looking for further justification to escalate, and expand the [endless wars without borders]. Somalia is next. [Think] shipping lanes, deep sea ports.

  2. Gill Robb12:17 PM

    The right approach to stop this sort of terrorism is to hold the families of the terrorists accountable.

    If the panty bomber's family were dragged into the streets and killed, then the rest of those scum would get the message that Allah was going to come down on their whole family for their murderous acts against the innocent people of the world.

    Don't punish the rest of us by destroying our freedom. Just kill the whole families of those terrorists. Game over.

  3. Uh, does this mean that after Yemen and Somalia, perhaps NIGERIA would be the ... uh ... lessee, fifth theater of war? It's logical. Nigeria also has oil.

  4. TR,

    I think Somalia first. Avenge Clinton.


  5. As I said above, imo: Somalia, with along side you have Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea. Nigeria, will be kept on the back burner. Attacking Nigeria now would disrupt the flow of oil at this time. Besides they need to pump up Africom.

  6. Anonymous2:51 PM

    Why criticize Holy Joe for not volunteering for Vietnam? Why should an American with a brain volunteer for a stupid war? Just say no. Hell No, as I recall. Holy Joe actually opposed the Vietnam War starting in 1967. No need to dog Holy Joe for one of the few things he got right.

  7. RZ,

    Yes, I think we'll be hearing a lot from AFRICOM in the months and years ahead.


  8. Looks like this kid had influences from all over the place - Houston, London, Yemen. I don't know whether Nigeria figures in it except as his country of origin.

    An application for renewal of a UK visa was denied. His US visa (why did he even have one?) was expired, yet he managed to get on a plane loaded for bear.

    The explosive, PETN, is detectable by headspace analysis (no pun intended), otherwise known as chemical sniffer technology. No need for gazillion dollar virtual strip search machines. I'm sure dogs could do a fantastic job too, once trained.

    How to get hold of PETN? Several renewals of a heart medication prescription and you're good to go. (My grandfather had angina and carried nitroglycerine tabs in a little round pill box in his vest pocket - ever the elegant man.) The liquid? My guess would be concentrated hydrogen peroxide. Lots of heat released on contact with an organic substance.

    (Note to FBI/CIA/FSA - I'm a chemist. It's just an educated guess.)

    So many arrows pointing at this guy and they still didn't find him. Meanwhile, Toronto's airports were backed up for hours and hours for flights into the U.S.. Why? Gawdknows.

    Was he sitting next to the window/outside wall of the plane? A small hole would have a quick decompression effect - your paperback book and cocktail napkins would be sucked out if you were next to the incident. Once the internal/external pressure equalized and the oxygen masks dropped, you might be a little chilly but you could land the crate and walk away from it.

    Just like September 11th. The warnings were there. Nobody was paying attention. Janet Napolitano looked like she was spaced out during the interviews. Mind you, she thought that the 9/11 types came from Canada. NOTA BENE - they DIDN'T.

    I've been reading Unintended Consequences, co-authored by an emeritus professor at the Naval War College. How one war leads sets the stage for the next, how the beginning of a war is pretty obvious but the end is anything but.

    Setting up Africom should be a pretty good indicator of where this all is going.

    Dare I say "Happy New Year" to Jeff and all the readers here? Is it too much to hope for?

  9. FILO; Africom

    one of four.

  10. I don't even want to think about what we'll have to go through to get on a plane after this. The new TSA experience will probably be a cross between a Chippendale's audition and an interrogation in John Yoo's basement. I expect the comedians are going hog wild with this.

    I've only flown twice since 9/11 and only out of necessity. I was waiting for the Reign of Terror to end (you can probably guess which one I'm referring to) before I became a regular customer of the airlines again. And now this. Too bad he was a rich Nigerian kid; if he'd been poor he could have stuck to e-mail scamming and left the rest of us alone.

    I suppose doing the bombing on Christmas Day was calculated to upset Westerners, but all he managed to do was deliver a nice gift-wrapped present to the war nuts. Thanks, kid.

    Where the hell is Yemen, anyway?

  11. RZ, I watched the Africom/con video. Good stuff. I left a comment.

    jpwhite, Yemen is the heel of the Saudi Arabian "boot". Oman is the toe. What do the Saudis think of bombing the hell out of Yemen, I wonder?

    In an interesting twist, a couple of the CIA operatives killed in Afghanistan by suicide bomber were Xe (formerly Blackwater) contractors. Apparently the CIA considers them to be CIA officers. One further step away from government oversight. The war has gone private - on public money.

  12. FILO; Ya, thanks, back at ya. A funny thing is that no one has connected, and or used Yemen and OBL. Usama Bin Laden's father was born in Yemen. Not one mention of this on any news site. hmmmmmm. I just find it interesting and odd.

    Suicide vests are their answer and response to our drones.

  13. Anonymous4:06 PM

    Back in the cold war the Soviets played factions in Yemen against the House of Saud. Brit pilots used to get extra money on loan to the kingdom keeping the Yemenis from coming across the great desert.

    In the 70's a B737 airplane in the Hawaii area lost a section of skin in the passenger compartment one guy was sucked out it landed in on piece, a convertible top needed.

    Decompression in aluminum airframes is a known phenomenon, far more danger from stress fatigue and corrosion than underwear bombs in airplanes maintained outside the US and EU.

    For air security better to demand better structural inspections than worry about nitro pills.

    Shoddy or inept repair services is the next worry, and there is economic pressure so the terr'ists can just sit back and take the credit.


  14. Anonymous11:35 PM


    Welcome back and firing on all cylinders.

    What we have here is a bunch of bored bureaucrats rubber stamping reports and cables and filing them away. Napolitano and Panetta better have their stories straight for Tuesday's Inquisition.

    Left Coast

  15. Jeff,

    Good to see you back.


  16. I just searched through your posts using the term "pakistan." Interesting uses. "Afghanistan and Pakistan" occurs so frequently.

    I had a nasty comment on my off-the cuff remark at the end of a post on the latest suicide bomber there. I responded with even more nastiness.

    Metinks the commenter don't normally visit my blog or they would know better.

    I think you will giggle.

  17. That's telling the f-tard.

  18. That's telling the f-tard.

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